UAE Desert Challenge: Team Saluki final notes

The dust has settled and the pace of life in the Rub Al Khali has returned to normal. Camels can now go back to leisurely wandering the desert, the herders and farmers have to wait for another 12 months until they can once again sit on top of a...

The dust has settled and the pace of life in the Rub Al Khali has returned to normal. Camels can now go back to leisurely wandering the desert, the herders and farmers have to wait for another 12 months until they can once again sit on top of a dune and watch the adrenaline packed stages.

The pace of life for Team Saluki has also come to a virtual standstill, with all the team members returning to their workplaces and trying to catch up where they left off.

This years UAE Desert Challenge was a turning point as far as the Team entry was concerned. The results showed that the Fast & Speed Honda powered buggy was the correct decision to make – a very able machine to challenge the top teams with. As privateers, we managed to split up the pack and the buggy became a talking point within the event. Considering the problem that we had on Day 1 with a cracked clutch plate (for which we were ‘awarded’ a 5 hour penalty) and a roll on Day 5, we still managed 13th overall, 1st in Class and 3rd in the Middle East, which just shows that we have what it takes.

Of course, whilst Tim and I were hurtling around the desert, we cannot forget the rest of the Team members, the people who greased the wheels (so to speak) and ensured that we could concentrate on the job in hand.

James Thomas and Lee Ashley (who flew in from the UK to help) set off on the day of the Prologue to trundle down to the bivouac at Moreeb in Liwa to set up the entire camp. Such was their dedication was that once they set it up, they decided to pull it down again and reset it as they felt it was not quite right! Once we had left for the long special section back to Dubai on Day 5, they were left to dismantle the entire camp. James and Lee also looked after the catering for the first two days until Gayle Powell arrived at the bivouac. Gayle had spent many days prior to the event preparing ready meals – spaghetti bolognaise and a great beef stew, to name a couple of the dishes, kept the Team going. Gayle also kept a video diary and was kept company by Tracie Mitchell (who is disappointed that no-one has contacted her yet. It seems that she may have set her standards too high!).

Craig McAteer and Bob Morrison (both escaping from the drizzle of the UK) were in charge of the Saluki press office (basically Craig’s laptop) and it was Craig who wrote up the days’ events and sent them to our very own Emma Thompson (who was in the UK wishing she was enjoying the sunshine as well) who in turn posted the updates on the many forums that showed an interest in the Team. Craig also mastered the in-car camera and ensured that we had all the footage downloaded and saved for posterity (or at least until we can find someone in a post production studio who wants to assist us by producing a DVD?). Craig and Bob also took the photos for the team which will be uploaded to the gallery as soon as they have been processed.

The servicing this year was simplicity in itself (compared to the Land Rover years). Roel Brussen from Fast & Speed joined us to provide his expertise and was ably assisted by Rick Galman and Leno from Carwise, a garage based in Dubai. Rick commented that their job was completed very quickly every day and that they had time to relax, unlike the previous years where they were up until 04:00 am. Roel was relaxed, in control and did his job very well.

With his intimate knowledge of the area, Paul Richards played a roving role using his Land Cruiser in an overall support function. The fact that he had to drive back to Dubai for a meeting only to return once it was over shows the resolve of the people involved.

This year, the buggy generated a lot of interest and apart from doing a sterling job at higher than average speed navigating, Tim also capitalised on the PR opportunity and between us, we managed to cover most bases as far as the media was concerned. The link shows the print media and is being constantly updated as we obtain more clippings and articles.

If anyone comes across an article, we would appreciate it if you could scan it or photograph it and send it to us, so we can include it in the press gallery.

We had many text messages and e-mails of support, as well as visitors to the bivouac and these were all appreciated in order to keep us motivated.

Motorsport is not the cheapest of sports to participate in and whilst we may have a superb team, we could not have achieved this without the help of our sponsors.

The buggy was fully branded in the Castrol EDGE colours, which was in striking contrast to the other vehicles. The Castrol EDGE oil performed extremely well in the conditions, so much so that we had a number of other teams asking us to help them with the lubricants, which we did. After all, this is marathon rallying at its best and you never know when we will need assistance ourselves.

Serck Services provided the cooling for the buggy as well as a support vehicle, generators and other vital equipment. One surprise product that they did provide was WaterWetter, which helped reduce the water temperature – this worked so well that we also offered the product to other competitors who were experiencing cooling issues.

Gulf Agency Company (GAC), our longest serving sponsor, provided the logistic services with regards to bring the buggy into the country as well as additional spare parts just prior to the event.

Trading Enterprises / Honda provided a Honda MR-V (powered by a 3.5L V6 V-Tec engine) as a press vehicle which performed admirably given the large distances it had to cover. I wonder if they spotted the fact that we swapped the engines over?

And last but not least, Landmark Properties provided support with regards to allowing us to purchase additional spares to keep the buggy running.

Additional support came from Advanced Fibreglass Industries and Tyco International.

It was a huge effort made by the Team members and the Sponsors and a very big thank you goes out to all involved.

After all, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it!


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Series Cross-Country Rally